Sox fans finally smile

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

Broadway Charlie Wagner, 91 years young, watched his Boston Red Sox from the living room of his home in Reading, Pa.

Greg Cranker, 46, kept vigil over his Sox from Mulligan's, a Mississauga tavern.

When Keith Foulke fielded Edgar Renteria's grounder and underhanded to first for the final out Wednesday, giving the Sox their first World Series title since 1918, both were elated.

Wagner, former assistant farm director, now a scout and longest-serving member of the Sox organization -- "they signed me in 1935, I knew the job wouldn't last," -- and his wife Elynor shed tears and tears. Of joy, happiness and relief. In that order.

Cranker, who began cheering for the Sox in 1966 -- "Mickey Mantle was getting old, so I switched to Carl Yastrzemski," -- ordered another round. There was moisture on the draft glasses, but he didn't cry.

CHEERED

"Haven't cried since third grade when I had my planter's wart removed," said Cranker, coach of the Erindale Cardinals senior baseball team.

While Cranker has cheered for the Sox for 38 years, Wagner, born Dec. 3, 1912, has been employed by the team for eight decades.

Doesn't matter.

Both had tenure as Sox fans, heck only 10 big-league franchises are still in the same place they were when Wagner threw his first pitch in the majors.

"In '35, I was 7-16 at Class-B Charlotte, which I wasn't happy about, but my skipper said I was a prospect," Wagner said. "I won 20 games at Class-B Rocky Mount the next year and 20 at Triple-A Minneapolis in 1937.

"And the next year, 1938, I made the big club."

Wagner pitched in 13 games as a rookie. He speaks the way the 'old timey' players spoke in Field of Dreams -- maybe because he played with some of them -- and was asked to explain his nickname Broadway Charlie.

"Boston writers hung the name on me," Wagner said, "But I wasn't a rowdy. My second year we got Ted Williams.

"We were sitting at our lockers one day, Lefty Grove was next to me, Jimmy Foxx next to him and Ted comes in bellowing: 'Okay, who doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, doesn't chase girls and goes to bed early?' Joe Cronin's office was next to us and he came out and said 'Ted, Wagner's your man.' "

Wagner was 12-8 in 1941 and 14-11 in 1942, rooming with Williams until both went off to serve in World War II.

Wagner returned to the Sox in 1946 and only pitched eight games that season. He didn't pitch when Boston lost the World Series to the Cardinals later that season.

"Ah, I did some rinky-dink things that year. At 33 it was tough to come back after being in 'double-U, double-U Two for three years," he said.

Cranker can tick off the heartaches and breaks, saying: "It's not like we (just) lose. It's was almost like they had an asterisk, they never just lost."

And away he goes ...

"Bob Gibson blew us away in 1967, I mean he creamed us, when the Cards won Game 7; in 1972 they got stiffed. Because of the strike they didn't play the whole schedule and lost by half a game; Darrell Johnson using rookie Jim Burton in the ninth inning of the final game of the 1975 Series against Cincinnati with the score tied; blowing a 14-game lead to the Yanks and then the playoff game in 1978."

Aside from Roger Clemens leaving Boston, Cranker's worst memory was 1986, when he attended a Jack and Jill in Milton.

The Sox went up 5-3 in the top of the 10th of Game 6, an out away from winning the Series at Shea Stadium.

"Angie Tonelli, John's brother, says 'well, this game is over' and turns off the TV. I yelled turn that back on," Cranker said, "but it was too late, like putting the bats away before the game is over.

"The Mets went single, single, single, wild pitch and the ground ball to Buckner."

Cranker, a former Intercounty League catcher with Guelph and Cambridge for 10 seasons, blamed catcher Rich Gedman for the ball that got to the screen, not reliever Bob Stanley.

"Every time the Sox lost there was always a side bar to the reason why," Cranker said. "Now they get into the Series and every time St. Louis had something going it would shoot itself in the foot ... right in the middle of the knee.

"Some games looked like they were spring training."

Wagner said the win brought out some emotions about the past and present.

"You always have a winning feeling, but we usually finished second to the Yankees," Wagner said. "Watching the celebrations from St. Louis gave me a resting feeling, such a nice feeling inside."

Cranker and pals had plans to drive to Fenway today to see the Sox celebrate and soak up some atmosphere.

"I've always said when the Argos were hapless as soon as they won people would lose interest," Cranker said.

"No one goes to see the Detroit Tigers anymore since they won. It's over now in Boston.

"Wait until you see the empty seats at Fenway Park next year."


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